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Hoops Preview: Clemson Hosts Colgate

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

When: Sunday, 3:00pm

Where: Littlejohn


My father used to joke when he would see a Colgate score on the bottom line scroll. He’d say, “Colgate beat Palmolive.” That was the extent of my Colgate knowledge until they popped up on Clemson’s schedule this year. Further investigation reveals that they are a solid mid-major program coming off a Patriot League championship and an NCAA berth last season. This will be a much more challenging contest than Presbyterian, and thus a much better chance to see if the team is really improving after laying an egg against VT in the opener.

The Tigers shot the ball much better against PC, but how much of that was a byproduct of a team not able to match up athletically? Most high major division one guards and wings will shoot it pretty well when not pressured much. The true studs can stroke it with high level athletes running at them on a close out. That, of course, was sorely missing in the second half against the Hokies. The Tigers are not a full court pressure team and lack much of a post up offense, so this year’s team is going to have to shoot it well to be effective in the half court.

Colgate comes in 1-0 after beating NJIT 80-75. I don’t envy the broadcast team’s job having to pronounce leading scorer Rapolas Ivanauskas’ name for this contest. The big 6’10” Russian went off for 24 points and 8 boards in the first game. He averaged nearly 16 and 8 last year and is definitely going to pose a challenge for the Tigers on defense. He can step out and shoot the 3, evidenced by the stellar 43.4% shooting he put up last season. He was just 2-8 from deep in the first game, but that isn’t indicative of what he’s capable of. 6’9” forward Will Rayman is another quality big guy for the Raiders with inside/outside capability. He put up a double-double in their first game.

This will be a very different challenge than the one VT presented, which was basically four guards and no real post threat. Colgate will force Aamir Simms and Tevin Mack to defend both the post up game and the pick/pop 3 action.

The football team is coming off another Atlantic Division Championship, and the men’s soccer team hosts Notre Dame in the ACC tournament Sunday evening, so hopefully the mood is good around Tigertown and a decent crowd will show up for this one. Colgate is not a cupcake team and the more dead Littlejohn is, the more likely it is an upset gets sprung. This is a critical game against a potential NCAA tournament team, and the Tigers desperately need to show they can win these types of games at home to help generate some kind of positive buzz for the team. The Tigers drew a pretty good crowd for the VT game and played a very ugly second half. They can’t afford another lackluster game without risking a lot of folks beginning to tune them out.

KenPom projects a 73-66 Clemson win. We can only hope that come to fruition as we try to figure out this overhauled roster.